Freedom to Be

The Independence Day comes over again and our Tricolour freely soars in the August sky. It flutters and sways in the wind.

Flag2

This is how our life should flow through the winds of destiny. With all kinds of freedom, the freedom to be what you ‘are’ is extremely important. Today, I watch my daughter with a happy smile.  A confident eleven years old, comfortable in being whoever she is.

Few years back I remember she suddenly became an introvert, hesitant child. What exactly had triggered this was not obvious, though. As a mother, I helplessly watched her going into a shell.
I was aware this would require a lot of love, acceptance and patience. I did not want to hurt her in any way. The fragile emotions were delicate and precious.After introspecting, discussing and researching I decided to convey the message through a story.

She had always enjoyed bed-time story sessions. As a toddler she would often give me subjects to create a story around. These story sessions would continue until she fell asleep.
While conversing, I realised that she had been comparing herself with her friends.
This is a trap we fall into. No one can help us to find our unique abilities. That discovery solely depends on us.

I wrote a story of a sad peacock who thought he looked dull. This peacock waited for someone to help identify his strengths. A squirrel who became his true friend helped him discover his talent. The colours were a gift from his friends as a token of appreciation.
This story helped my daughter immensely. She would listen to it almost every day and slowly things changed.

Today, she is a cheerful well-adjusted child. She is aware of her strengths and comfortable with her weaknesses. This is the real freedom.

This story has been published by Mangoreader. It is award winning reading library. It is an amazing resource for kids, parents, teachers, readers, writers and artists. Digitally interactive stories enhance imagination and creativity.

I appreciate Artika Ranjan’s contribution in creating lovely illustrations for this story.

Do read and share this story with young readers.

The Peacock’s Secret

Peacock's Secret

Happy Independence Day !

Dear Daughter

Birds

Dear Daughter,

It is strange to observe how time flies! It seemed just like that yesterday you came into our life as a helpless sweet little bundle. However, eleven years have walked through the curtain of time, and I can hardly believe. This year as you celebrate your eleventh birthday, I decided to write this letter. We can read it together when you turn twenty one!

I have tried to record many enchanting moments through all these years. Whenever I visit my blog, I notice this drawing that adorns the blog. You were two years when you created this. I smile as it transports me to those beautiful days when you danced as shimmering light of dawn and slept like an angel (though only for few minutes).
Today you stand tall, confident, happy and enthusiastic. Your girlhood and adolescence seem to compete with each other. As I watch you grow up, I feel proud and scared at the same time. Dear daughter, the world today is evil and the mother in me constantly worries about your safety.

Your energy sometimes frustrates me dear daughter; I want you to calm down. Slow your pace to experience life, see the grace around you and feel it. Rushing through our days and through life has become our mantra. We hardly have any time to ‘live’ life in the real sense.

Nest

The Nest

Remember when we created our nature journal last year we discovered such lovely things near us. We found that tiny nest on the top of the park just next to our terrace and small babies waiting for their mother to come. We observed a woodpecker visiting that leafless tree. Remember how we used to wait for the bird (our Woody) to visit. However, that tree was cut down, and we lost our Woody forever. Yes, life changes and we need to accept the change as only change is constant. These moments, would become an anchor later in life when you feel lonely. So try to notice these little things, experience the exquisite as you walk through life. Though happiness cannot be taught, it’s an art that needs to be practiced. Try to notice the perfect ‘imperfections’ of apparently mundane days where life dwells and joy resides.

I am not asking you to become slow. You should run at times to feel the air in your face and jump and shout, but not all the time. Dance in the rain let the droplets soak you. Nature is very healing and rainy afternoons and paper boats are so enjoyable. Dear daughter, let life unfold like a flower one day at a time.

Believe in yourself while taking your decisions. Don’t be afraid to follow your passions that one-day would lead to your dreams. Let people say anything don’t look for acceptance from the world, but accept yourself as you are. See your own beauty and don’t compare. Beauty is the way to speak with compassion, with respect, with concern. Beautiful means to have the ability to make another feel warm at heart in your presence, beauty is those stars in your eyes. You have extremely expressive eyes, look after them lovingly.

When I scold you for eating too many chocolates sweets and junk food, you are frustrated. However, it is for your health. The mother in me wants the best for you. Treasure your health dear nothing else will ever matter.
And yes about those hurts, yes you will face some bitter, harsh truths; sometimes people will be mean and rude. Life will look very unfair, but my dear accept it with all humility and surrender as grass does in the midst of a storm. It’s alright to cry sometimes and fearlessly, give way to tears; you will feel healed after a good cry.

Lastly I have not been able to spend much time with you as much as I want to due to other responsibilities, but let’s make a pact; we will try to catch more time together on weekends when we cook, create, read or just lie in the bed and listen to the night sounds.

Lovingly

Maa

Random Moments

Random Moments

It is wonderful to witness your child growing up. The quick silver moods resemble the sky with clouds and rains one moment while sunny skies the next. At the end of the day when your child is peacefully asleep you smile to glance along with extreme fondness. Writing about these sweet anecdotes in a diary is a great way to record.

When she is hungry she resembles a famished lion! I keep her hunger at bay and mostly am successful, but sometimes I fail. She realizes her temper soars when anger hits and asks me to remind her to eat. Many times she declares that there is ‘nothing’ for her to eat, and I helplessly stare at the loaded fridge with the fruits and snacks I have prepared. However, then that is a different story.

I am in awe with her dressing sense. She has a knack of picking up a great combination of dresses from her wardrobe. I realized this when she was about five years of age. She wore a short sleeved waist length black lehenga blouse, which had a pink pinstripe border with her Jeans and the result was elegant and stunning. She looked so lovely!

At times, of course it is not easy, when she dislikes all her dresses.  Mostly she finds something suitable.And there are days when she will wear the same T-shirt and jeans day in and day out. One day I almost had tears of frustration in my eyes when I saw her in that yellow ochre T-shirt for the seventh time in a row.  I was so choked with emotion that I could not speak.  When I asked her keeping my voice normal she walked away throwing a glance. It was a look of reproach for not buying her the new dress she had wanted.

She is too fond of her high heeled golden sandals. I had persuaded her to buy low heels, not very sure if she should be wearing heels at this age.  Once she insisted on getting a lip gloss.  I got her, a chap stick, and she is happy.  Do not know how soon she will find out.

I remember when she was about two years, one day she made me speechless.

“Mama kya karu kuch samaz nah I aa raa hai”

“Kya hua?”

I stared, admiring the long perfect sentence!

“Muze facial karana hai skin bada kharab ho raha hai!”

I burst out laughing. This was a direct result of listening to my conversation with a friend the other day who was complaining about her skin. My little one had picked the tone and manner impeccably.  Barring the baby voice the expression was just perfect!

Birthday parties see frenzied activity for about an hour or so. The whole household has to get involved in the process of her getting ready. The dress, hair accessories need to be selected approved by her. After getting ready she looks at me with anticipation and excitement. This is her opportunity to go through my perfumes and select one. Mostly it is Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel!

I don’t know when a mother and daughter become friends but yes it happens and the bond is strong. It is fun to glance through magazines and admire the dresses, bags and accessories together. I look forward to times when both of us would go shopping and choose things for each other. When we will share books to read and discuss them. When we will sit at a café and talk excitedly about our shopping expedition and enjoy a cup of coffee!

Beyond the Obvious

Beyond the Obvious


I feel life is a school without teachers! Here you are left to experience and learn what you want. Every minute is a new experience, every second has infinite possibilities and every second we are born anew. This is intuition and no coaching is required. I want my daughter to get to know this phenomenon which can give you serenity beyond words and a calmness to give you the strength to take up challenges happily.

She is more connected with this philosophy than I am. We tend to ignore the inner child.  To cherish the inner child we need to cultivate what is known as the ‘Beginners Mind’ in martial arts. Soak into the experience, become a fish in the sea if you want to swim.

At times we complicate by interfering, hurrying and forcing. When we spend time together I just let her lead me. It could be an hour of making soap bubbles and laughing as they float around. She was fascinated by the rain bow colours reflected back toward us. In the bubbles, we observed own reflections at times. The enraptured hour had moments of pure bliss as it tranquilly passed on through the pendulum of a clock.

Children and curiosity walk together. What? Why? Who? How?

Rudyard Kipling described it so well when he wrote-

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

I want her to have the inquisitiveness remain intact. Of course as she grows, she will have to find the answers by herself. However, she will have what is required. At times we sit with a big hard bound kid encyclopedia and search for any query. If she finds something that catches her attention, we stopping flipping pages and read about it. Then I remind her to go back to the original query.

Yesterday she asked me why milk curdles. I explained it scientifically as simply as I could. But she disagreed. She said it was because the milk wants to turn into paneer! Well, that could be the reason! No one ever thought of asking the milk its aspirations! This was the most original explanation I had ever heard of.

Every day we discover things around us, which seem very dull and regular on the surface but with her eyes, I can find some truth beyond the obvious.

Then the barren knotted tree trunk on the corner of the road transforms into a secret gate of an enchanted kingdom, the huge gulmohar tree which has shed all its leaves is waiting for the tailor to stitch the red flowery costume, stars shed tears in the form of dew because they received a scolding from God for watching too much of the Earth channel.

I wonder what goes on in her mind when she is asleep. She looks deceptively innocent yet she he can throw a tantrum worse than a fierce sand storm. The phases come and go. Restless is the energy of childhood which makes children explore and learn. Every child comes with an inbuilt ‘discovery mode’ we just need to expose them to creative pursuits. Let the choice rest on them. Flexibility on such issues will make you a strong parent. Respect the child to gain respect.

When she grows and finds her niche, I will be proudly able to say that we experienced life together and learnt so much from each other. As I cherish the moments shared with my mother.We still laugh and smile thinking about those days.


Books And Dinosaurs

Last two weeks have been pretty hectic. Work, school assignments, guests and carpenters all fought for my attention. And the weather had been extremely hot all over last week. Now it is a much better. Schools still have about two weeks to go before they close down for the summer vacations.

My daughter has suddenly started taking interest in her studies, whether this is a passing phase or forever I have no idea. However,  the home work is getting done easily without  any screams and tears. She is getting ‘good’ and ‘very good’  for her work. Yesterday, while talking to the class teacher, she casually inquired-

‘Ma’am What’s the matter, I am getting ‘good’ and ‘very good’ for my work?

I stared at her stunned! As the hilarious situation dawned on me, I burst out laughing. My daughter cleverly implied that it had something to do with her teacher and not herself. She put the blame squarely on her teacher for not giving her a ‘good’ previously.

“What did the teacher say?”

“Teacher laughed”

Well there was hardly anything else she could have done.

While watching a program on dinosaurs she asked me about their eggs and the size of eggs. When I answered the questions and finally lost patience she looked at me with hurt looming in her eyes and accused me of a grave crime by saying.

“I ask you  because you must have seen the dinosaurs. Aapke bachpan mein to honge na mama”

How do I convince her that am not that  ancient?

Exasperated, I finally accepted that I had seen the  eggs and the giant animals too. Perhaps, I may have been one of them,  I shuddered while thinking. She shrugged at my expression and went away. I told her that if I was a mummy Dinosaur than she must have been my baby.

Hahaha!!!!!she laughed as a question popped.

“Oh, in that situation what did they teach me in school mama?”

Now that needed a real dinosaurous imagination to think …

Dumb and speechless it was easier to laugh. But my creative wheels are spinning perhaps I can write a tale of ‘Naughtiest Dinosaur in School’ on the lines of Enid Blyton.

Coming to Enid Blyton, I discovered a kid’s library near which delivers the books. They have a good collection.We will be joining this week. I want her to plunge into the fascinating world of books. She can choose according to her liking, but she should become aware of the pleasures of reading.

I am waiting for her to read Enid Blytons which I had really enjoyed and yes the classics too. If she would like to read Jane Austen we could read the Pride and Prejudice together. This time I would understand Mrs Bennett ‘s psychology better and not just think of Mr Bingley and My Darcy. That is for later with many years of reading in between.

There are so many books I would love to discuss with her. At present let me concentrate on the books for kids.

Note-I had written the blog in April this year.

Art of Cooking

Art of Cooking

Cooking comes naturally to mothers! You can be a slow cook, a bad cook, a great cook…but you have to cook meals and of course the stories to go with it.

My journey in this field has been amazing giving me an understanding of the philosophical side of hunger. A hungry and crying baby will always seek its mother. The comfort of your mothers cooking is something we can easily relate. And it continues throughout life. There is an uncanny connection of a child’s hunger with the mother. No matter how grown up the child is the mother instinctively realizes and will ask ‘Have you eaten something?’ You can recollect the worried looks on your mother’s face when you tell her you have had no time to eat as you rush through work.

Cooking her favourite dish excites me. I like to surprise her and watch the dancing stars in her eyes when she notices her favourite dish on the table. Her excited chatter is enough for me to give in. But then I need to worry about nutrition too.

It’s not easy to explain a child the importance of eating healthy. With the market overflowing with fast food and crazy food items how long can you protect? When she was a toddler I had set few rules which of course I have been following-

No chips packets

No aerated drinks in the house

No fried snacks

These three rules are followed religiously and have helped us to have a balanced and healthy diet.

It was easy when she was a toddler because her interaction with the outside world was limited and I could monitor. But once she started school she realized there was a long list of forbidden but extremely tempting food available outside. I was growing as a parent too. It would have impractical to just become an authoritarian parent and insist on the rules. I found some strategies that helped me. I am happy to share with everyone here.

I made a PPT presentation of her lunch box menu consulting her and gave her three choices to choose from. This made her feel important and gave her freedom of choice. So every day there was one fruit in the lunch box with either a vegetable paratha , or a sandwich .She could choose fruit juice too on two days of the week. On Friday she could have her favourite junk food. There were few tantrums but I tried explaining her. She understands the importance of eating right. Her interest in her looks is another motivating factor, though I feel she is too young for all that. She is growing up fast and soon I would worry about her boyfriends more than her lunch.

I am very lazy when it comes to cooking. This has helped to develop a creative way of cooking while reducing the stress and toil get a dish which can be enjoyed without any hesitation. Cooking stories have helped definitely and made me a fair cook.

Last year in the summer holidays I introduced her to this art of cooking. And the results were great. We bought a nice bright apron with the design of bright cherries. Her excitement was infectious.

The first dish she tried her hand was aloo tikki.  Washing hands before entering the cooking arena is a rule she knows since she was a toddler. I gave her a plastic grater to grate the boiled potatoes.  She chose the ingredients she wanted to add. It was ginger, chopped coriander and salt. She omitted green chilli. Her concentration helped her to form perfect rounded tikkis. My daughter is a perfectionist when it comes to shapes, no wonder she draws so well!

The hot griddle with a teaspoon of oil was on the gas as I helped to lay the five tikkies. Soon the dish was ready to eat. We took the plates to the dining room and laid the table. I had kept some lettuce leaves in ice cool water and the fresh crisp lettuce looked tempting. There was nice tangy imly chutney to go with. She enjoyed decorating it on her plate. Finally she ate without remembering even once that she hated tikkis……

It was a wonderful bright afternoon we spent in the kitchen. That day I found out a peaceful way to make her eat dishes she refused to eat without tasting. Getting kids involved can get them interested and no kid will refuse to eat what she herself has cooked. I feel boys should be taught to cook too.

Since that day she has graduated to making more complicated stuff. She makes sandwiches, bhel puri and sprout chat and fruit chat.

These holidays she wants to try her hand on making ice-cream. Good going, I should say for a seven year old child and mom.

First Published on Sulekha

Saturday Conversations

Saturday Conversations

This blog will be my online platform to share the delightfully rich experience of being a mother. My daughter is seven and going on eight. We both are at the same age. She is a seven year old child and I am a seven year old mother.

These seven years of parenting have taught me more than I ever learned in my formal education. It made me smile, laugh and cry. At times I did feet like banging my head on a wall. It made me give up for a moment only to get up the next. However, the motif of days is woven in a bright hued yarn of tender happiness.

I have read much on parenting. Nothing prepares you for the experience. You have to be in water to swim. Just become a parent and see. Patience, a little understanding and unconditional love will get you along.

We have a weekly ritual. On Saturdays, I apply oil to her hair in the morning. Nothing elaborate I just warm some coconut oil with few neem leaves and we decide on a comfortable place to sit. Put on some music and the mood is set. I started doing this when she was a toddler. At that time the conversations were one sided with much cooing from her side. It changed when she started to speak.

At present, we throughly enjoy this one hour. The topics are contemporary mostly comparing my own childhood with hers. So we talk about her friend who laughed at her, of the huge elephant she saw on the road. That day she insisted we have a pet elephant which was followed by a shocked silence on my part. No matter how much I tried, I could not see myself accommodating a baby elephant in the house. Finally, she realized it was not very practical to have an elephant in the house and agreed with my views, and we laughed at the sheer absurdity.

One Saturday she asked me about the neem leaves, I put in the oil. It was a wonderful hour when I told her about the lovely trees and the significance. There is a huge neem tree in the park behind our house so the botany lesson soon became a practical one. Whenever she goes to the terrace she breathes deeply and declares she is breathing oxygen.

Last Saturday we discussed her tantrums. She was not reluctant but I could sense the anxiety. Like our joys, our stress is also very personal. I realised I needed to be very careful. She should not feel like I was intruding. As she relaxed with the head massage she opened. There was a bully in the school who intimidated her in the lunch break. This girl was in a senior class and would ask her difficult questions and then make fun of her. I promised to talk to her teacher. I sat with her and let her talk about her frustration, anger and resentment. When she was done I wiped her tears and hugged her. She smiled.

“I want a big ice cream.” She declared impishly. Children can manipulate well.

Yes,we had ice-cream and a pizza that day. It became a memorable Saturday for all of us.

These Saturday conversations have helped us to know each other as individuals. This way I know what is happening in her life. I hope this carries on in the unstable teenage years. At times the mother in me is worried of the bad world. Yes, I know I have to make her strong so that she can take care of herself. I am happy to walk this path holding her hand as we learn together to become a better mother and a daughter.

I will be sharing my hands-on experience as a mother, in this blog series. Thanks for visiting.

First Published on Sulekha